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Dell Inspiron Duo transforming tablet: Flippin' 'eck

Dell's interesting new hybrid has the neat trick of swivelling from a tablet into a keyboard-sporting netbook.

Dell may have breathed new life into the netbook, showing off a model that's able to swing its touchscreen into tablet mode on a nifty new kind of hinge.

Presented at Intel show IDF, where our sister site took some pics, the Inspiron Duo 10-inch didn't look particularly impressive or different compared to what we've already seen this year from tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab. It had a dual-core Atom processor running Windows 7 Premium rather than Android, and was shown off running popular touchscreen game Plants vs Zombies.

But then the real fun started. It was revealed that the tablet could split open, revealing a large keyboard underneath. The screen can swivel within its frame, turning into a slimline netbook. This is much neater than the clunky horizontal swivels that tablet laptops traditionally use.

The demo actually drew gasps from the audience. But Rupert Goodwins of ZDNet UK fame warned that the hinges and frame represented a difficult manufacturing challenge, and we'll only know how robust it will be with a full review.

But if Dell is up to the challenge, it could have a winner on its hands, especially with people who intend to use it for work as well as play.

"Tablets are great for entertainment, but they aren't conducive to productivity, so for that they are missing one key feature -- a keyboard," said David Zavelson of Dell's UltraMobile Devices division. "It's great for providing the productivity that you need to have, as well as allowing you to kick back, relax and enjoy entertainment on your own terms."

While the folding convertible laptop design has been around for ages, it's only been a niche success. Lenovo earlier in the year gave us a laptop with a unique pop-out display but didn't really take off.

With the huge great poke up the bum the iPad has given the tablet market, however, other companies' software and hardware are getting to the point where these devices are very easy to use. If Dell gets the build quality, usability and pricing right, the Duo might do very well. Otherwise it'll be quickly consigned to the dustbin of over-hyped devices.

Do you think Dell has hit on something with this?